BOISE, IDADHO--The Bob Firman Invitational is set to take place Saturday at Eagle Island State Park and some of the top teams in the Northwest will be throwing down and showing what they can do on the eventual NXR Northwest course.
Take a look below at some of the top individuals and teams that will be facing off against each other on Saturday.
Why: The favorite here based on times has got to be Gaitan. The junior won the Woodbridge Classic last weekend in 16:06.10, but her teammate, Arianna Griffiths, should also be in the mix. Griffiths was eighth at Woodbridge. But this wouldn't be Bob Firman Invitational without some fellow Idahoans. Back for another go at Eagle Island will be 2017 champion Lexy Halladay. Halladay was second at NXR Northwest on this same course a little over a year ago and being one of the state's stronger runners, she's no stranger to this course. Matched up with national-level talent, this should be an important race for her. Also looking to represent Idaho is Boise Senior High School senior Liebich. After a phenomenal track and field season that saw her win titles in both the 800m and 1600m, she's continued in that form this fall and holds the fastest time in the state after her 18:06.00 opener at the Boise City Meet. Meanwhile, Montana's Ember Stratton--a transfer from Sunset, Oregon--should also be someone in the mix in the lead pack, along with a few others from Utah.
Why: The Great Oak girls are looking to show out in full force and are ready to prove why they're ranked No. 3 on the MileSplit50. But they'll at least have to look over their shoulder, because Boise Senior is here looking to make some noise. The team looked very strong at its first two meets of the season, with wins at the Boise City Meetand the Timberlake Farragut Invitational. The squad's top five averaged18:38.10 for 5K and the squad holds a spread of just under 65 seconds. Montana's Hellgate High School andBozeman will be in the mix for a top finish as well.
Why: This is going to be a showdown between some of the top guys in the state of Idaho. Green has looked the strongest in the state so far and owns a mark of 15:16.20 from the Jimmy Driscoll Invitational. But not far behind was Nick Russell, a fellow competitor in Idaho who ran 15:16.30 at the same meet. We also can't count out Moss or Erikson. Moss was 17th at NXN a year ago and finished 11th at this race last year in 15:35.60. Erikson currently holds the fourth fastest time in the state with a 15:45.70, where he finished third at the BYU Autumn Classic; he also beat Russell at the Tiger Grizz Invitational. Those are just some of the top guys in the state of Idaho.
Outside of the Gem State will be the race's favorite, Gardner. The Springville senior was ninth at this meet last year and is currently ranked No. 12 on the MileSplit50. He also hasn't lost a meet this year. Along with Gardner will be brothers from Hurricane High School, Caleb and Joshua Armstrong. A year ago at Bob Firman Caleb was eighth in 15:30.90 while Josh was 31st. Lest we forget about Great Oak's talents. Any number of their top athletes could run well, including Gabriel Abbes, Tyler Tickner, and Chris Verdugo.
Why: This should come down to a race between Great Oak and Bozeman. The Wolfpack are coming in confident following a win at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, where they had a total of 10 runners under 15 minutes--six in the sweepstakes race and four in the rated race. Unbelievable. Naturally, the squad has a strong top three and an interchangeable 4-7. But the race in Boise should present different challenges than the flat and fast terrain of Woodbridge. This will be a big chance for the Wolfpack to prove itself against a handful of out-of-state teams and on a course reminiscent of the one they'll find at NXN in Portland, Oregon. Bozeman, however, could make a statement, too. After all, the program has a history of performing well in big meets. The Hawks have a 15 second spread but they'll be tested by Great Oak to lower their average of 16:16.07. We could also see an appearance from Central Valley Senior High School (WA) in the standings. Last year, the team placed third with 137 points.